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Monday, January 24, 2011

Books, books and books-III

After leaving the School, I had a brief stint at Loyala College Chennai, for about four months before I joined the NDA. The college library was good but it did not have an open access system. You had to consult the catalog , fill out a slip giving your choice of books and at the end of the day, the books were issued, if available. You could also reserve a book if it was under issue. Well, it was difficult to pick up a book by just the title and the author, unless you had seen the book before. Moreover, one missed the pleasure of physical browsing of books. Its like ordering a pizza on telephone as compared to placing an order after leisurely taking in the sights and sounds and aroma in a restaurant.
And it was like a blind date. Once, I filled out a slip “Basic Theories by Freud” and after the classes, I was greeted by a real monster of a book, a hard bound edition , over 1000 pages weighing over a kilo. I had to lug it home , browse through for a few days before lugging it back.
It was a too short a stay at Loyola to settle down to any focused reading.
At NDA, again, there was a very good library, though it was hardly used by the cadets. Firstly cadets had little free time and more importantly, library was simply not considered a ‘hip’ place to be in. In fact during our time it was part of the punishments to spend the Sundays at Library. Defaulters (you did not have to do much to be labeled a defaulter; a button of slightly different shade, or a twisted lace in your boots can fetch you 7 or even 14 restrictions). Each day of ‘restriction’ included a run in the evening and 3-4 reportings and on Sundays , it included a library session. It goes without saying, I had my share of ‘restrictions’
It is at NDA that I read all the volumes of complete works of Swami Vivekananda, Biographies of Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda by Nikilananda and Romain Rolland , Atmabodh and Kindle Life by Swami Chinmayananda. It is natural that philosophy and psychology are grouped together by librarians,. So my next stop was Psychology. I was particularly interested in Jung; a book I intend revisiting is “modern man in search of a soul".
No Tamil books here and only fiction I read was ‘historical fiction’. I remember reading everything written by Alexander Solzhenitsyn including some prose poem; Gulag Archipelago, The First Circle, Cancer Ward, The Love-Girl and the Innocent, August 1914, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. To sum up, for whatever reason, it was all serious reading and just no fun reading. May be I equated serious stuff with English and it was much later that I read books like PG Wodehouse.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Books, Books and Books - II

This is in continuation to the blog on 29 Sep 10. Then, I was counting the days to move to Mhow for good. I thought I would have all the time in the world; but as the saying goes , ‘Man proposes, God disposes’. After Sep, it is only now I have sat down to write something.
My school had a very-well stocked library, or so it seemed to me as a nine year old. I had opted for Lower Tamil (third language ) and I was the only one in my class to do so. My teacher thought I was actually better at Tamil than the guys who had opted for higher Tamil (second language) and he let me spend the time at the library. That was fun.
I started with children’s books, but soon graduated to short stories and novels. The library had a fair collection of English books and generally one started with famous five & secret seven, and moved on to Perry Mason, Agatha Christie , ‘Sudden’, Alistair MacLean, Nick carter, Arthur Hailey and so on . But barring an odd book from each category, my reading was mostly in Tamil . In Tamil ,we never had any children’s books really. so it was Akilan, kalki, Naa Parthasarathy, Jeyakanthan, Jekachirpiyan, Mu varatharasanar and so on. Then there were the popular women writers like Anuradha Ramanan, Indumathi, Ramani Chandran, Sivasankari, Vaasanthi anuththama, Lakshmi (aka thirupura sundari) . Lakshmi was like mills and boons in Tamil. I admit, I liked reading lakshmi kathai as much as other books. Reading in Tamil was fun, fast and easy. Fortunately for us, our teachers never forced us to read English books nor they forced us to converse in English (as they do nowadays) and in any case I used to score better in English than the “famous five” types. (Penguin’s David Davidar was a classmate of mine and he was a voracious reader; thanks to the high weightage given to grammar, I used to outscore him in exams.)
Moreover lots of books from other Indian languages and some foreign languages were available in Tamil. Many famous Russian novels including War and Peace were available in Tamil. I remember reading “Mother “ by Maxin Gorky when I was in 7th or 8th. I did not learn much about the nuances of the Bolshwik struggle or about communism, but the travails of Pavel Mikhailovich against the Tsar’s regime definitely made some impression.
During that period I read hardly anything other than fiction and biographies. Essentially it was Tamil fiction, but a fiction that covered a whole host of serious contemporary social and political issues of those times.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

50 Spiritual Classics

Read "50 Spiritual Classics" by Tom Butler-Bowden.

Every book listed is definitely worth a look, but depending on your own temperment, culture and upbringing some of the books may be more appealing. I have made my own short list of 12 books which includes books read, read and forgotten and books yet to be read.

Jonathan LIvingston Seagull

Richard Bach

The Tao of Physics

Fritjof Capra

Black Elk Speaks

Black Elk

An Autobiography : The Story of my experiments with Truth

MK Gaandhi



The Prophet

Kahil Gibran


Hermaan Hesse

Memories, Dreams and Reflections

CG Jung

Think on these things

J Krishnamurti

The Razor’s Edge

Somerset Maugham

The Miracle of Mindfulness : An Introduction to the practice of Meditation

Thich Nhat Hanh

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Robert Pirsig